Growing bamboos

Page last updated: Tuesday, 3 June 2014 - 10:56am

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Clumpers produce new shoots close to the old shoots and the plants grow in clumps that can be easily managed. Growth is fast and can be more than 30cm per day. The stems reach their full height in 40–90 days.

A few stems of bamboo with fattened stems.
Buddha's belly bamboo.

Good varieties include:

The hedge bamboo, Bambusa multiplex, which has attractive slender, arching, stems. These grow to 3–8m high and are good for screening and stakes. There are about 10 types and the yellow-stemmed 'Alphonse-Karr' whcih has green stripes and 'Silverstripe' are especially good ornamental varieties.

Oldham’s sweet shoot bamboo, Bambusa oldhamii, grows to 15m tall but is a compact, clumping variety with large stems. It is suitable as a windbreak, as a screen plant, for landscaping, for timber, and for harvesting its sweet edible shoots.

The weavers’ bamboo, Bambusa textilis, has several forms that produce graceful plants with medium-sized stems that are suitable for weaving, or for stakes.

Barcode bamboo, Bambusa vulgaris vittata is a tall variety with large golden stems with green stripes and edible, slightly bitter shoots, which are a popular Vietnamese food.

The small Mexican weeping bamboo, Otatea acuminata acuminata, has graceful, weeping foliage with narrow leaves and medium-sized stems and grows to 6m.

Timor black bamboo, Bambusa lako, and Indonesian black bamboo, Gigantochloa atroviolacea, have attractive tall, large, black stems, especially in warmer areas and the Timor variety also has striking green stripes.

Bambusa vulgaris 'Wamin' and Bambusa ventricosa produce swollen stems when stressed and are known as Buddha’s Belly varieties.

Shoots of clumping bamboos are harvested when they are 600mm above the ground, with a sharp, straight blade. The cut is made close to the join of the fibrous rhizome and the soft tender new shoot. Dendrocalamus asper and D. latiflorus produce sweet shoots but are only suitable for big home gardens.


Runners have long, slender underground stems (rhizomes). They are slow to produce shoots as they send out long rhizomes to colonise surrounding soil. These bamboos can form large forests and can be a menace in a garden and for neighbours, as new shoots may emerge up to 10m from the parent plant.

A trench dug next to a stand of green running bamboo.
With trenching running bamboos can be controlled.

The Phyllostachys genus has many varieties that produce runners, all of which have a notch on their stems. The common black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) is popular, but has extensive marginal leaf burn in Perth and is best grown in the southern coastal area. Phyllostachys bambusioides 'Castillonis' is a good ornamental pot plant, with attractive yellow stems with green lines. It has runners that can travel 10m and must be confined. Other common genera with many species include Pleioblastis, Pseudo-sasa, Sasa and Semiarundinaria.

Running types may be planted in a home garden in large pots up to 100L and 60cm in diameter. They should be divided every five years. Only a few shoots should be left in each pot, otherwise the plants will ‘choke’. However, they will grow better if they are grown in soil and planted within a 900mm-deep, rubber, concrete or other impenetrable barrier that is sealed at the edges. It is also possible to dig a trench about 30cm deep and 35cm wide around the plants. The runners should be removed in spring and summer when they emerge at the sides of the trench.